Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Need a phone? Why not own the whole mobile network instead!

The time has come - you need a new phone and paying 30£ for a couple of text messages with your current moblie network won't cut it. Believe it or not, this may be the luckiest day of your life. YOU have been chosen to lead the mobile network on your own (and you'll get that sim-card in the process). Giffgaff offers an exciting community that is dedicated to providing you with a perfect service without the corporate mumbo-jumbo.

Offering less features than the competition is the main selling point of this advert. They have no customer service centers, don't offer monthly plans and make you do the tech support work for them - far better offer than your alternatives! Wait a minute ... have they gone completely crazy or is this a joke? Neither. In many cases it is not the feature list your product showcases, nor is it the quality that attracts buyers. What matters is the perspective.

Valence framing (Tversky, Kahneman, & Choice, 1981) is a technique where you take an object and intentionally cast it in a positive light. See, having no customer service centers is actually a great thing! And you know what's even better? You guessed it - no monthly plans! This advert carefully presents the network's lack of features as the best aspects of the company, leaving little to actually dislike. The result is a perfect service that is very hard to resist.

The technique is reinforced by introducing contrast throughout the clip. Not only do they show you the amazing features they offer, they don't forget to show you all the horrible acts their competition is responsible for. Contrast is one of the most common advertising techniques and it works so seemlessly that there is virtually no defense against it (Tormala, & Petty, 2007). If you place a good service next to a terrible one, the first looks that much better!

All it takes at this stage is a superhero to save the day. The giffgaff representative is the Batman of the story (paper mask included) who has the perfect solution and is an antagonist to the evil corporations. Giving someone "a helping label" makes not only them, but the objects they are associated with seem much more likable (Strenta, & DeJong, 1981). This encourages you to help them back - in this case by purchasing the product.

While having no more than 30 employees, giffgaff is a popular mobile provider in the country with eyes on expanding soon in the future. Last year they successfully started selling mobile phones and while the company does not offer a range of features superior to their competitors, they make up for it in their community structure and marketing that comes across as extremely friendly and likable.

article by Tomas Engelthaler (#2)


Strenta, A., & DeJong, W. (1981). The effect of a prosocial label on helping behavior. Social Psychology Quarterly, 142-147.

Tormala, Z. L., & Petty, R. E. (2007). Contextual contrast and perceived knowledge: Exploring the implications for persuasion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43(1), 17-30.

Tversky, A., Kahneman, D., & Choice, R. (1981). The framing of decisions.Science, 211, 453-458.

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